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MICHAEL CAPELLAS, Compaq's new chief executive officer, last week revealed the company's restructuring plan that includes up to 8,000 job losses and fully embraces the direct sales channel.

Reporting second-quarter losses of $184m on increased revenues, Capellas said that the third quarter would be a rocky one as the company changes its distribution model and takes up to $1bn in restructuring charges. The number of distributors of its hardware will be cut from 39 to four, and its distribution centres will be trimmed by 70 per cent. Shifting to Web sales should mean a dramatic reduction in inventory. Using traditional distribution channels means Compaq typically holds more than three weeks' inventory, compared to seven days for Dell and two days for Apple.

E-TRADE, THE number two Internet brokerage company in the US, last week said that it was following Charles Schwab by offering Web-based stock trading in the UK. The California-based company is forming a partnership with Electronic Share Information of Cambridge to operate at www.etrade.co.uk. Its commissions start at $24 per trade - more expensive than in the US but cheaper than the UK average.

Ten million people have opened online accounts to trade in stocks and shares in the US over the last three years. In Europe there are 100,000 users, mostly in the UK, but the figure is expected to triple.

NETWORK SOLUTIONS (NSI) came under renewed investigation by EU regulators last week. As NSI loses its monopoly on gran- ting domain names, the EU is concerned that the licenses it is granting to competing registrars will tie them to NSI.

"We are concerned about NSI - which is the current monopolist - trying to secure its position in the future," said Stefan Rating, a European Commission spokesman.

EU regulators have contacted the US Commerce Department and are asking NSI to scrap binding agreements as it begins competition. The commission is investigating complaints about two NSI contracts with Internet companies known as test-bed registrars in Scandinavia, Rating said.

"It's similar to breaking up a big telecom monopoly," said Jonathan Robinson, managing director of NetBenefit, a UK company that will be accredited to register domain names. "The EU will hopefully be able to speed up the process."

PAUL MARITZ, Microsoft's developer group vice-president and number three in the company hierarchy, is giving up day-to-day management duties, fuelling speculation that he may retire. David Vaskevitch will take over his operational duties and Maritz will join a technical leadership team focusing on strategy, new products and advising the chairman, Bill Gates.

Earlier this month, Sam Jadallah resigned as vice-president of enterprise sales. Before that, Pete Higgins took indefinite leave from his job leading the company's Internet businesses, and Nathan Myhrvold also went on leave.

Maritz has lost more than half a dozen of its high-level executives in recent months.

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